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Spring superlatives: Syracuse

3/17/2011

Time to look once again at the positions where each Big East team is strongest and weakest this spring (and only considering the roster as it stands in the spring). Up today: Syracuse.

Strongest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: Justin Pugh, Zack Chibane, Andrew Tiller, Michael Hay

Key departure: Ryan Bartholomew

The skinny: Even with the loss of Bartholomew, whose underappreciated talent was highlighted by his strong work at the NFL combine, the Orange O-line is in great shape. Four starters are back, including second-team All-Big East left tackle Pugh. The only spot that needs replacing is center, where Macky MacPherson is working this spring after serving as a snapper specialist last year. MacPherson is undersized, but the coaches like his talent and work ethic. The line had some up-and-down moments last year but really came together strong for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. With experience to work with, head coach Doug Marrone -- an old offensive linemen himself -- must love this situation. (Honorable mention to defensive end and safety, where all the starters return).

Weakest position: Linebacker

Key returnee: Marquis Spruill

Key departures: Doug Hogue, Derrell Smith

The skinny: When you lose a pair of all-conference players and team leaders like Smith and Hogue, it's not going to be easy. Spruill had a nice freshman campaign at outside linebacker, but he is being asked to take on a lot more responsibility this spring while moving to the middle. Candidates to fill the other spots include senior Dan Vaughn, junior-college transfer Siriki Diabate and early enrollee Dyshawn Davis. But there's a lot of inexperience now at what had been one of the Orange's strongest spots.